Ipswich’s own tennis champion Ash Barty has had an astonishing year on and off the tennis court, having added four new accolades to her name: the WTA Finals champion, the Don Award, the Women in Sport Moment of the Year Award, and now Australian Sportsperson of the Year Award.
In her latest triumph on the court, Barty took out defending champion Elina Svitolina 6-4 and 6-3 to win the Womens Tennis Association Finals in China, taking home the champion’s trophy and a prize money cheque for US$6.4 million, the largest for a women’s singles event in the sport’s history.
This latest win makes Barty the first world Number One player to win the Finals since Serena Williams five years ago, and the first Australian to win it since 1976.
Upon accepting the award, Barty spoke with reverence about the coveted title. “It’s been the most incredible year for me. It’s been an incredible new era in women’s tennis and to play in front of this spectacular crowd has been amazing. The biggest thing, it’s been a growth of women’s sport.”
Barty also remarked on how her achievements are indicative of the growing support for women’s tennis, which has come so far since the establishment of the WTA in 1973. “It’s more of kind of a general progression of putting our sport more on the map.
“We have the most beautiful sport, it’s a global sport. Now we’re getting more attention. I feel like we’ve earned that.”
The Finals secures a WTA tour record marked with success from the beginning but now positioned as the top ranked player in women’s tennis as well as breaking through the $10 million prize money bracket prior to the Finals. With that win Barty is now the highest money winner on tour.
Barty is a branding dream, working tirelessly to promote Australia’s sporting image. She is the National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador for Tennis Australia and has just secured a lucrative third year sponsorship deal with Vegemite.
It’s been a hugely successful year for Ipswich’s golden girl and if this upwards trajectory is anything to go by, she’s just getting started.
Barty, who hails from Springfield, began playing when she was four years old and by 16 was playing national and international tennis.
In 2014 she took a break and moved into cricket, joining the Brisbane Heat for the Women’s Big Bash League despite having no prior cricketing experience. Her move back to tennis three years ago was a huge success when she won French Open, securing her place as a champion in the sport.
As well as being a highly talented and hardworking player, Barty is renowned for her down-to-earth personality and good-natured sporting spirit. She says she gained this insight from her parents and her first coach, Jim Joyce.
“My parents taught me that being a good person is the most important thing in life, I try and live by that every day,” Barty said.
“When I started playing tennis, my coach Jim Joyce had four ‘rules’ – be a nice person, respect people and be respected, have fun and if you can play tennis that’s a bonus – these are still with me today.”
Despite the disappointment of losing the final of the Wunan Open in China earlier this year, Barty retains a charmingly up-beat and positive outlook. “At the end of the day tennis is a game and it is meant to be fun. I try to walk away with a smile even after a tough day.”
The WTA Shenzen tour concludes in November and although she is now reigning champion, Barty has said she still has plans before the end of the year and goals to kick before she can relax.
“The perfect way for me to finish 2019 would be with a win representing Australia in the Fed Cup, then I’ll be ready to celebrate.”